On Friday I met with several NBC Universal (NBCU) leaders to discuss the closure of NBC Latino (among other things).
As many of you know, NBCU announced in November that they were shutting down NBC Latino, their Latino-focused news site. After nearly two years in operation to have a valuable English language platform focused on Latinos close and the dismissal of some staff was concerning to many, including NAHJ.
I am grateful for the opportunity granted by NBCU to meet with Craig Robinson, Executive Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Greg Gittrich, Executive Editor of NBC News Digital, Yvette Miley, MSNBC Vice President and Executive Editor and others from the network’s diversity and human resources team.
The meeting was candid, fair and productive.
While many have and will continue to be (rightfully so) critical of NBCU’s decision, I can assure you the motivating factor was purely business. No one I spoke to disagrees that the Latino community is an important voice at NBCU (coverage, content, employees). Still the realities of business models, corporate priorities and strategies have an effect on any operation.
There is no doubt that, as Mr. Gittrich shared with me that the special Latino section on the new NBC News website will garner more viewers and expose a larger audience of non-Latinos to stories about them.
As a former employee of NBCU (7 years with NBC, 7 years with Telemundo), who participated and led many Hispanic initiatives for the company and often was constructively critical of their progress…I can confidently tell you – NBCU is invested and champions diversity.
I agree with many of Adrian Carrasquillo’s (former NBC Latino staff) opinions about the closure of the site. In particular, Carrasquillo’s quote of Chris Peña, former Executive Editor of NBC L:atino, “Back on the fourth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, our boss, Chris Peña, used to say: “We’ve succeeded when we can shut down the website.” We’ve accomplished our mission, he meant, when identifying, covering, and advancing stories that impact the Latino community is a vibrant part of the company’s DNA. I don’t think anyone who follows mainstream media would say that’s close to being true today.”
No, NBCU cannot say “mission accomplished” and they are not. In fact, their meeting with me and investment in NAHJ shows they understand that there is much work to do.
I shared with them my criticism and they agreed that NBCU is not nearly where they should be in regards to best serving the Latino community; especially given the fact they have a wealth of experience in Telemundo (a company that was acquired by NBCU in 2002).
Success in any project is measured over time. It needs to be a dot on a graph on a specific start date with a line which moves upward over time based on consistent and ardent nurturing. Sure, some changes will be made along the way, but the team entrusted with the project need to be faithful to the original plan.
Research shows that Latinos are not looking to have the spot light on them. What they want is to be included in the conversation. What they want is to be reflected in the content (journalists, experts, central characters, decision makers). That’s not to say there isn’t a place for stand-alone vehicles produced by Latinos for Latinos. But when you’re specifically targeting English dominant Latinos; they prefer to be part of the larger conversation. So, yes…I agree and support the absorption of NBC Latino in to a new website that includes and exposes their unique voice to all audiences.
So, what now? Identifying a problem is easy. Finding solutions are difficult.
Here’s what needs to happen. Sandra Lilley, Managing Editor and Suzanne Gamboa, Senior Writer will be responsible for the content of the Latino section. It is on them (to begin with) to ensure that the stories are robust and faithful to Latinos’ interests and concerns. It is on us (NAHJ) to assist them and keep them to that promise.
NBCU and Telemundo are sponsors of NAHJ’s national convention in San Antonio this year (as they have been for many years). But now they are also going to invest in specific mega sessions (national, regional conferences) focused on producing and newsroom leadership.
NBCU will work with NAHJ to build relationships with professional and student chapters in order to improve their recruiting practices for internships, fellowships and other entry level opportunities (as well as mid-career and senior opportunities).
As far as the staff who unfortunately lost their jobs. NAHJ is here to assist them in finding new opportunities.